the Church on the Hill
by D. Eric Williams
Pastor, Cottonwood Community Church
A second interpretive approach to the “near at hand last day” passages in the new testament is the “long last day” scheme. Those who hold to this point of view contend the last days began two thousand years ago and will continue until the second coming of Jesus Christ. Therefore, the writers of the new testament meant something other than what they actually said.
In order to accept the idea the end time passages considered above refer to an “event” that has already lasted two thousand years, we need some indication from the text this is what was meant. In other words, if the writers of Scripture used words in a fashion completely different from the norm, there needs to be clear examples of such use in other portions of Scripture as a “tip off” that this is the way the Bible utilizes such terms.
Is there anything in the text, or in the historical and cultural background of the writers to indicate they meant “two thousand years or more” when they said “soon,” “near at hand,” “quickly” and so on? The answer of course is no (J. A. Alexander, A Commentary On The Acts Of The Apostles, 62). And there is really no need for these semantic gymnastics. The Bible itself tells us how these “near at hand last days” passages should be interpreted.
In the old testament we find several instances where the writers used end time or last day type language. In other words, there are passages in the old testament where God declared an end, of sorts, was about to take place. In most of these passages the meaning is quite clear and so they are useful to us in our effort to see how God uses end time language.
For instance, In Isaiah 13, the prophet declared in a prophecy against Babylon that “the day of the Lord is at hand ...the day of the Lord comes” (13:1, 6, 9). Jeremiah proclaimed concerning Judah that “Our end was near, our days were over, for our end had come” (Lamentations 4:18).
The prophet Ezekiel says “And you son of man, thus says that Lord God to the land of Israel, ‘An end! the end has come upon the four corners of the land. Now the end has come upon you, and I will send My anger against you: I will judge you according to your ways, and I will repay you for all your abominations. ...An end has come, the end has come; it has dawned for you; behold it has come! Doom has come to you, you who dwell in the land; the time has come, a day of trouble is near, and not of rejoicing in the mountains. Now upon you I will soon pour out My fury, and spend My anger upon you: I will judge you according to your ways, and I will repay you for all your abominations. ...Behold the day! Behold it has come! Doom has gone out; the rod has blossomed, pride has budded. ...The time has come, the day draws near. Let not the buyer rejoice nor the seller mourn; for wrath is on their whole multitude’” (Ezekiel 7:2-3, 6-8, 10, 12).
Again, Ezekiel says “Woe to the day! for the day is near, even the day of the Lord is near ...The sword shall come upon Egypt, and a great anguish shall be in Ethiopia” (30:2-4).
In Amos 5:18-20 we read a declaration of woe for those who desired the “day of the Lord” because of the judgment it meant for Israel. In 8:1-2 the prophet described the basket of summer fruit that the Lord showed him and announced, “The end has come upon My people Israel. I will not pass by them anymore.”
In Obadiah 1a and 15 we read “the vision of Obadiah. Thus says the Lord God concerning Edom ...for the day of the Lord is upon all the nations is near.”
And finally, the last selection we will look at from Zephaniah 1:7, 14 reads, “Be silent in the presence of the Lord God for the day of the Lord is at hand” and “the great day of the Lord is near; it is near and hastens quickly.”
Again, this is not an exhaustive list of last day or end time type passages from the old testament. It does, however, provide adequate material to work with in reaching a conclusion concerning similar language in the new testament.